PR gives you valuable third party endorsements, but when there is none to be had anywhere, you really do have to take to direct contact with your audience, so advertising, direct mail, video blogs but NOT social media, come into their own – as UK supermarket giant Tesco found out.
Tesco found itself embroiled, along with a number of other supermarkets and food retailers across Europe with selling horsemeat disguised as beef.
£300 million was wiped off Tesco’s stock market value. In the UK, sales of ready meals were down by 13%, frozen burger sales down by 43%, and there’s been a huge rise in people visiting traditional butchers, some for the first time ever. Every cub reporter in local news has headed down to the last remaining butcher in town for a soundbite – witness Workington, Cumbria, 25% increase in sales; Dewsbury, West Yorkshire, 20% increase; Henley-on-Thames, 20% increase; Wembury, near Plymouth, sales up by a third; and in Louth, Lincolnshire, increases of 10%.
In February, Tesco “took to the mattresses”, no interviews, lots of written words.
It quickly placed double-page spread adverts (and that’s seriously BIG – a double-page spread in a UK broadsheet newspaper is nearly two feet high and two-and-a-half feet wide or 60cm x 75cm) in a number of UK national newspapers apologising to customers for selling beef burgers containing horsemeat and promising to refund customers who bought the contaminated products. It said sorry for the “unacceptable” situation. It finished on the note to “work harder than ever with all our suppliers to make sure this never happens again.”
Another set of double pagers targeted more upmarket (possible shoppers at rival upmarket Waitrose stores) with Ads saying we’ve changed, and committing to working with British farmers to sell more British meats.
You see a survey commissioned by the National Farmers Union had just found 78 per cent of shoppers agreed or strongly agreed that supermarkets should sell more food from British farms. In a video blog, Tesco’s CEO Philip Clarke, says the supermarket will bring meat production “closer to home” and work with the National Farmers Union (NFU) to build longer, closer direct relationships with farmers and producers in the UK.
Food is personal and Clarke has taken the lead in a personal (although not social media based) campaign. Direct mail letters from the same Philip Clarke have been peppered at Tesco Club Card customers.